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Stretching (The Truth)

Everything old is new again as stretching becomes a trend

SPRING 2019

If there’s one thing you can count on it’s that when it comes to food, fitness, and fashion, there will always be a new trend.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s fun to try new things, even when they’re really not new but just new takes on old classics. This year in fitness, “stretching” is one of the new trends. You may have already seen new boutique franchised studios popping up around town and around the country, seemingly a sort of cross between the expected benefits of physical therapy, yoga, and a spa. In the nutshell, these facilities offer assisted stretching; an employee helps apply pressure to help you stretch your body.

To be sure, stretching can be a beneficial part of your fitness routine. It’s an essential way for your body to recover from workouts and can contribute to promoting overall wellness. Done properly, stretching helps improve muscles by increasing blood flow around the body, while enabling a greater range of motion, which can help reduce the risk of injury. Whereas lack of stretching contributes to your muscles getting shorter, which hinders blood flow and reduces flexibility, stretching helps lengthen those muscles that can be associated with better posture, better alignment, reduction of injury, improvement in range of motion, reduction of soreness, improved recovery, and overall improved comfort in your day-to-day living and even at work. Stretching regularly can help minimize aches and pains as a result of greater blood flow and a reduction in muscle stiffness. And, of course, stretching can be used therapeutically to alleviate cramps.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF STRETCHING
Static and Dynamic stretching are the two most common forms of stretching. Dynamic is movement-based stretching that increases blood flow throughout the body and also loosens up muscle fibers (e.g., high knees, lunges, etc.). Static stretching is a more stationary stretch, where a stretch is held for a period of time without moving, giving muscles a more intense and deeper stretch when compared with dynamic. 

It is common for athletes to stretch before (warming up) and after exercise in an attempt to reduce risk of injury and increase performance. While it may seem counterintuitive, there is evidence that static stretching can have the effect of actually weakening muscles when used as a warm-up exercise, and so an active dynamic warm-up is advised for warm-ups in place of static stretching. To be clear, static stretching can be beneficial overall due to its intensity and its isolating specific muscles – it’s just at warm-up the benefit may not immediately be realized. 

And, yes, stretching can actually be dangerous when done incorrectly, resulting in hypermobility, instability, and permanent damage to tendons, ligaments and muscle fibers. Stretching is a process that requires discipline and a physiological understanding, and so please check with our trainers about your approach to stretching.

ASSISTED STRETCH
There are some experts who argue you should be the only one stretching your body on a regular basis, since you know your range of motion best. But there are also arguments that assisted stretching can help since many people don’t stretch correctly or that you might get more out of a stretch with someone helping you.


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So, the jury is out in terms of the efficacy of assisted stretching. That said, if you choose to explore it, be sure the person assisting you has a solid background in human anatomy. Some facilities indicate their practitioners are “certified,” but truly you want to have a practitioner has a license to massage, stretch, and provide physical therapy services.

THE PUNCH POV
The bottom line from our point of view at Punch:
  • Avoid static stretching before training; it can be detrimental to your performance, and there’s no validated proof that it reduces injuries – in fact, there is some evidence that it could set you up for injury!
  • Before training, dynamic stretching is best.  We focus on doing movements that mimic what we’ll be doing in our training session workout, and we want to work you up to a light sweat. For weighted workouts, we want to see you warm up doing reps with just the bar before putting on weight – when you do the light, easy movements before adding weight, you are literally warming up your body, which will help you in your performance while helping to avoid injury.
  • To get the benefits static stretching to isolate some muscles, do them after a workout or on off days. Always remember that stretches should be only mildly uncomfortable and there should not be a lot of straining, and certainly no pain. Consistent, gentle stretching goes a long way, and pain should be addressed accordingly (let us know).

At the end of the day, you want to be your best “you” – feel good and feel strong. At Punch we focus a lot on mobility overall with stretching being but a means to that end, so if you have a specific interest in working on flexibility overall or in specific problem areas, let any of our trainers know and we’ll be happy to help you do it right.